Living kidney donor, Anil Srivatsa from India is on the road to Perth unlike any other.
His road will take him 57,000km through 17 countries as he drives to Perth, sharing the
message of organ donation along the way.
Anil has been a campaigner for organ donation since 2014 when he donated one of his
kidneys to his elder brother Dr. Arjun Srivatsa.
What made you decide to take on this enormous trip? What are you hoping to achieve?
People find ways to get their point across and we are familiar with running marathons, or ice bucket challenges or walks and more. I chose driving because:
- More people are climbing Mt. Everest than what I am doing – driving around the world promoting this cause.
- I get to drive through smaller communities and villages and speak to them about organ donation. They need more help than the city folk. Knowledge is powerful and driving allows me to reach these communities.
- Driving around the world takes a lot of effort, mentally, financially, and physically. I have chosen this adventure to also demonstrate to the world that life can be any adventure you want it to be, post a living donation.
With driving, I get to share my story firsthand. This beats social media where the attention span is so limited. Speaking to an attentive, engaged audience is a far more effective way to bring change, as you are creating ambassadors who will champion the cause long after you have left town.
Driving like this also helps me get the attention of the media. They like out-of-the-box stories and this story is just that.
You started your journey to the World Transplant Games back in April this year. Where did you start and what countries have you been to so far?
I started the journey in February when I drove to Kashmir in India and back after speaking to about 5000 people, as well as media. Then I flew over to the USA and started driving at the International Rotary Convention in Houston in May. From there, I went up to Alaska, across to Toronto, back to New Jersey, then Kansas, Texas, Mexico and down through Central and South America.
What route will you be taking to Perth and will that be the end of your journey?
I am heading to Argentina where the car will be put on a boat to Sydney and I hope to drive across Australia to Perth for the World Transplant Games then on to Melbourne for the International Rotary Convention.
There is no end to the journey until we all get closer to a point where no one dies waiting for an organ transplant. I still have Africa to fire up to embrace organ donation.
You have been doing presentations to Rotary clubs wherever you go. Why Rotary and what is the message you are sharing?
I am a Rotarian. We are ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make living on this planet better for everyone. Rotary, with a single-minded effort globally, has managed to almost eradicate polio from this planet. Who better partner than Rotary to get behind organ donation? This journey is about Uniting Rotary for Organ Donation. I speak to clubs along the route about how they can work to this objective in their own communities with advocacy, awareness and philanthropy for organ donation. The message is clear. The goal is to ensure their community is 100% committed to organ donation, their systems and processes are in place to enable not just signing up but also for retrieval and transplantation. Rotary can become the equalizer for many communities, as organ donation is still the privilege of the rich in most parts of the world.
Does the message change for different countries that may have different situations with organ donation and transplantation?
Yes, each country has a legal system that determines the social acceptance and execution. My talks work with the law of the land and I adapt the conversation to that context. What is universal about my talks is that it universally has the foundation of love. Organ donation is an act of love.
You have set up the Rotary Club for Organ Donation and are its charter president. Why set up a separate club and what is its objectives/function?
A single-minded focus on anything in life delivers results and starting a cause-based club in Rotary was the first step to unite Rotary for Organ Donation. Our members consist of the best transplant surgeons, nephrologists, articulate donors, recipients, caregivers and activists. We are now set up to be a global think tank for Rotary club partners to help them organize local projects.
What has been your favourite thing about the journey so far?
It’s been the people that destiny puts in my path. The people who I have met and are now champions and allies of organ donation. They make me want to continue this mission.
Love is a driver and lots of loving people are supporting me financially, emotionally, physically, and morally. It is what makes this worth all the sacrifice and trouble. I only see joy, love and success because of them.
In 2019, at the World Transplant Games in Newcastle UK, Anil took part in the 100-metre race and ball-throw competition. He won the ball-throw under the donor category, while his brother won gold in golf. Anil is planning to compete in the swimming, 5000 metre race walk and ball throw in Perth and his brother will compete in golf, swimming and cycling.
Do you think you will be able to defend your title in the ball throw?
We always think that. I am a little worried as strength training is a challenge as I drive and keeping a training schedule is hard. But I do take time and throw the ball a few times when I get someone to throw it back to me. Other times, I throw rocks to keep the arms limber. I don’t need anyone to throw the rocks back to me, so I can do this solo.
What do you enjoy about participating in the World Transplant Games?
I love the energy of thousands of athletes who have had similar shared journeys as me and showing t the world that life can be active and as athletic as you want it to be after a living donation. I like that these Games will see more donors participating in vigorous athletic sports. It is the best way to build confidence in potential donors who are undecided about committing to saving someone they love. Becoming an example for them is the driving factor of my participation. Of course, the self-achievement, as a result, is the cherry on the pie!
Any final words?
I would like to acknowledge all my supporters. My family who are standing behind me like a rock. Right next to them are my work colleagues who are holding the fort in my absence. My investors, for their continued support and confidence. They there are my never-flinching sponsors who are seeing the impact of the effort and financially enabling me to continue. My Rotary family, who support me with gas money so I can keep getting to more meetings and spread the message. To friends and strangers who contribute via crowdfunding to keep me on the road to serve humanity and save more lives.
Anil and his wife Deepali have just made it to Ushuaia in Argentina, considered the “bottom of the world.” If you would like to follow and support Anil on his road to Perth you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram at Gift of Life Adventure.